There’s nothing I can say about Douglas Stuart’s 2020 Booker Prize winning novel, Shuggie Bain, that hasn’t already been said. Know that I laughed, I cried, and I ached for Shuggie, his alcoholic mother, Agnes, and his siblings. This story is raw and tender and hopeful and heartbreakingly sad.
In my tradition of not reviewing books that have a squillion reviews on Goodreads, I have instead put together a mix tape, drawing on some favourite passages in the book. Needless to say, I had dozens to choose from in Shuggie.
You know when someone asks how you are and you say “Fine”, despite the fact that your day/week/month/year has been completely shit?
That basically sums up the main character in Gail Honeyman’s smash debut, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Obviously Eleanor Oliphant isn’t fine. In fact, she’s a lonely young woman, set in her rather odd ways. A chain of events forces her to re-evaluate life.
I enjoyed Eleanor’s odd take on things and her formal, stilted interactions with others were strangely endearing.
Save for the exquisite oeuvre of a certain Mr Lomond, I have yet to find a genre of music I enjoy; it’s basically audible physics, waves and energized particles, and, like most sane people, I have no interest in physics. It therefore struck me as bizarre that I was humming a tune from Oliver! I mentally added the exclamation mark, which, for the first time ever, was appropriate.Continue reading →
It’s not just the opening line and the title that’s arresting about this story (incidentally, the title is the only thing I don’t like about this book – it’s too long to tweet). It’s a character-driven plot centred around Janie and her mother Iris, and their life in a succession of council flats, predominantly in Scotland. Regardless of where they are, the story is the same – there’s useless men, the dole queue, drink, drugs and violence to be had in any town. But loyalty and family bonds run deep and as you follow Janie’s rises and falls, you can’t help but become attached.
“…My eyes soaked in the our new neighbourhood. Graffiti and scorch-marks, echoes of small fires, decorated doorsteps. Golden Special Brew cans and crushed vodka bottles, bright as diamonds, collected in the gutters. Front gardens were filled with mouldy paddling pools and, occasionally, a rustburnished shell of a car. I had never seen anything so beautiful, so many colours, before in grey Aberdeen.” Continue reading →